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Dadsdream

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Any last hopes at stopping BREXIT got buried at the ballot box, it would seem. They're calling it the biggest win since Thatcher.
My only question would be, how does it affect the U.S.?

“We will get Brexit done on time by the 31st of January, no ifs, no buts, no maybes.”
Boris Johnson

 

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I think Brexit is probably the dumbest thing I've ever heard of a country wanting. Especially since, to continue commerce with mainland Europe, they're still going to need to follow and allow many EU directives and regulations, but now do so without any internal EU government representation. It just makes zero sense to me.
Agreed but that said it didn't start out as an academic or even planned exercise for most. It was essentially a "non-binding" resolution where people let their angst be known. Like any multi-party organization, there's always agnst. That combined with loads of false promises yadda yadda yadda, we are here. I really think if the resolution were originally as binding and certain parties where honest about the difficulties with the process, the ordeal would have followed a different route and possibly not have taken place. Turn out for the original referendum certainly would have been higher.

We've had a few elections here that I think are comparable. The primary one that comes to mind is Roemer, Duke, and Edwards. Roemer was the lesser of the weasels (a very low bar) but people were so ticked with him we wound up with a Duke/Edwards run off. People do stupid stuff when it comes to ballots.
 
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RobF

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Boris begs for Big Ben to bong for Brexit. Britons between bemoaning and busting over the idea.

Seems that is how to mark the occasion is the top story, things are moving along.
I think 'moving along' implies a certain degree of smoothness that's noticeable mostly by its absence.

At the moment, we're just staggering over the 'Mission Accomplished!' line; with novelty mugs, towels, 50 pence pieces, and not enough enthusiasm to actually bung enough bobs for Big Ben to bong.

Then we're into the next phase, where Johnson hopes just saying "Got Brexit done!" was enough and where I suspect it'll very quickly become apparent that no, it wasn't. Because you already have Johnson still claiming there won't be any kinds of border inside the UK and the EU pointing out that he already agreed to them, plenty of indications that the UK is going to find it impossible to resolve the conflicting demands of the US and EU (not to mention China; see, e.g. some of the political rhetoric around the Huawei 5G provision debate), while an 11 month clock (the transition period in which the UK will still follow EU rules) will have started ticking with no clear idea emerging of how to resolve any of that and what's going to follow it.

The next months will basically be the same as the last, except having left, the UK will be in a worse position to determine where it's going to arrive. So basically I'm expecting a few months of wild promises and glowing visions of the future, again, which crash into reality, again, and turn into panic and blame, again, before whatever deal was completely unacceptable just a few months earlier is given a dab of frantic lipstick as the clock runs out and declared no longer a pig.
 

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At 11:01 pm GMT (6:01 pm Eastern Time, US) tonight, all British flags will be removed from all formal EU displays. Tonight, the United Kingdom formally begins the 11 month process to separate from the European Union. That's 11 months worth of negotiations between the UK and the EU on their relationship going forward.

Most pundits are stressing that for the average British subject and for tourists, little will appear to change initially. Britain never fully switched to the Euro, so that's one less thing. After a week of currency predictors and speculators engaging in a flurry of activity, the Euro/Pound exchange rate has steadied. Hold your breath. Wait and see.

Maybe someday there will be a United States of Europe, but for now at least, a key piece to that puzzle is going to go missing.

 
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RobF

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Then we're into the next phase, where Johnson hopes just saying "Got Brexit done!" was enough and where I suspect it'll very quickly become apparent that no, it wasn't. Because you already have Johnson still claiming there won't be any kinds of border inside the UK and the EU pointing out that he already agreed to them, plenty of indications that the UK is going to find it impossible to resolve the conflicting demands of the US and EU (not to mention China; see, e.g. some of the political rhetoric around the Huawei 5G provision debate), while an 11 month clock (the transition period in which the UK will still follow EU rules) will have started ticking with no clear idea emerging of how to resolve any of that and what's going to follow it.

The next months will basically be the same as the last, except having left, the UK will be in a worse position to determine where it's going to arrive. So basically I'm expecting a few months of wild promises and glowing visions of the future, again, which crash into reality, again, and turn into panic and blame, again, before whatever deal was completely unacceptable just a few months earlier is given a dab of frantic lipstick as the clock runs out and declared no longer a pig.
I haven't updated this in a while, but the above from January is looking broadly accurate so far.

Currently Johnson has decided his own 'oven-ready deal' that his party voted through in December because it would 'get Brexit done' was not, in fact, 'oven-ready' and doesn't 'get Brexit done'. It's now 'ambiguous' and 'contradictory' and needs to be re-written. You might think, as it's an international treaty we're talking about, this would be done through further negotiation in the long-term deal they're supposed to be working on with the EU, but Johnson has decided to take the unconventional approach of attempting to unilaterally rewrite it through domestic legislation.

As his Northern Ireland Secretary has said in Parliament, this would 'break international law', but only in a 'limited and specific way', so that's alright then.

Except unsurprisingly a lot of people don't think it being 'limited and specific' makes it OK and see it as a really bad idea. This has resulted in the permanent secretary to the government's legal department, Sir Jonathan Jones, resigning. There's also a lot of opposition from many senior politicians, including previous Prime Ministers and attorney generals - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-54145202 - including from his own party. He's still going ahead with it anyway. The bill has passed its second reading and is at the committee stage.

The particular point of contention is about the border he claimed there wouldn't be inside the UK, despite the agreement involving one effectively being in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. To re-cap, in order to protect the integrity of the EU single market, while also avoiding a border being put in back in place between Ireland and Northern Ireland, the agreement is that amongst other measures tariffs would be applied between the UK and NI for goods heading, or at risk of heading, into the EU from the UK via NI. The criteria for determination of which goods are at risk would be made by a Joint Committee (here's an EU summary from October last year of that aspect of the agreement - https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/pt/qanda_19_6122).

Johnson had previously said such a border would exist only "over my dead body", before going on to agree to one, while continuing to insist he hadn't. He's now, essentially, saying he did agree to it, but only because they were in a rush, and that it's a terrible idea, because what if the EU decided all goods going from the UK to NI were at risk and put tariffs on everything? And because it would be such a terrible thing for one party to unilaterally determine that, the UK should be able to unilaterally determine that and have no tariffs or checks applied to anything. (Again, the criteria for the determination of which goods are at risk is supposed to be made by a joint committee, not unilaterally by the EU, and this is part of the treaty Johnson already agreed and that his government already passed).

The bill itself is not at all subtle about what its intent is, having two sections (42 and 43) relating to regulations regarding goods and aid between NI and the rest of the UK, and going on to state that those sections and any regulations made under them "have effect notwithstanding any relevant international or domestic law with which they may be incompatible or inconsistent", where "any relevant international or domestic law" includes " (a) any provision of the Northern Ireland Protocol; (b) any other provision of the EU withdrawal agreement; (c) any other EU law or international law; (d) any provision of the European Communities Act 1972; (e) any provision of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018; (f) any retained EU law or relevant separation agreement law; (g) any other legislation, convention or rule of international or domestic law whatsoever, including any order, judgment or decision of the European Court or of any other court or tribunal".

Obviously passing domestic laws which say "international laws don't apply" is a bit dodgy. UK legal twitter has been having a field day, as have Johnson's opposition (Ed Miliband, former leader of the Labour party and current shadow business secretary was standing in for Keir Starmer who's currently self-isolating, delivered a speech in opposition of the bill widely seen as pretty devastating to Johnson).

And clearly if enacted, it defeats part of the purpose of the treaty, protecting the integrity of the EU single market, since it would essentially allow NI to be a open back door into it. So if applied, this would inevitably require checks at the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, which would defeat the purpose of avoiding that, and be seen as undermining the open border and peace process. This in turn would jeopardise any trade deal between the US and the UK, as several members of congress have stated they would not pass a deal with the UK if this happened (https://www.itv.com/news/2020-09-16...if-uk-breaks-good-friday-agreement-for-brexit).

And the Internal Market Bill that allows for the UK to effectively override that part of the treaty is also a problem for devolution; some of the powers currently invested by the UK in the EU would in principle be returned to devolved powers, so for one example, Scotland would be able to set some rules and regulations regarding food and energy. This bill would effectively overrule that by requiring all parts of the UK to accept goods and services from all other parts of the UK, even if they don't meet local standards. This would raise the scenario where the English-dominated national UK government could agree a trade deal with another nation, such as the US, that allowed the importation of food to England that didn't meet Welsh and Scottish standards, against the will of the Welsh and Scottish Parliaments, with this bill then forcing Wales and Scotland to accept that imported food regardless. This in turn inevitably increases the prospect of Scottish independence. So much for domestic unity.

Plus, it's also very hard to convince people you're negotiating with that you're doing so in good faith while you're simultaneously trying to pass domestic laws to override previous agreements you made with those same people.

So we're at the "wild promises crashing into reality, panic and blame" stage. I'm really not sure what'll happen next though. Currently it looks like they're trying to get the bill through by promising they won't actually use the measures unless they really have to, which is a bit like trying to persuade people who think loading up on tools for breaking and entering and going and robbing a house is a bad idea by telling them, OK, we'll just load up on the tools and we'll decide if we're actually going to break into the house when we get there.

Johnson does have a large majority, so even with a sizable number of rebels, it's possible the bill could pass. But it's worth questioning what the goal is. On the face of it, it's an extremely crude negotiating strategy, to try to force concessions from the EU in the UK-EU future relationship negotiations: "Look at what we can do if you don't give us what we want." But that doesn't really hold up to any serious scrutiny; the UK isn't in a position to bully the EU, nor would it be in the EU's interests to allow itself to be bullied in such a manner. An agreement also requires the approval of all 27 member states. The EU is willing and able, if necessary, to let the UK walk, apply the practical and legal measures necessary, and lay the consequences at the UK's door.

It's also possible this is a prelude to a no deal exit, with a genuine, if spectacularly dumb, belief that this is a viable strategy. In which case the intent would be a dual one, firstly to blame the EU for the lack of a deal by portraying them as the unreasonable uncompromising instigators of UK division (despite the agreement in question, again, having been signed up to by the UK in the first place), and secondly an ill-conceived attempt to leave with no strings attached at this stage, despite the legal, international, and domestic problems outlined above that this would inevitably cause.

But it's also conceivable to me that the target audience of this bill is domestic, not international. Perhaps they don't actually want it to pass, and the aim is to deliberately manufacture a rebellion in order to blame the rebels for the need for a further extension to negotiations. That is, so they can turn around and say, "Oh darn, look at these remainer rebels foiling Brexit again, now we'll have to extend negotiations further while we sort this out. Those darn remainers, eh?" And if some of the awkward people resign and can be replaced with more amenable people in the process, so much the better.

It's hard to say. Basically, it's either stupid, stupid and malicious, or stupid and malicious and devious.
 
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RobF

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And clearly if enacted, it defeats part of the purpose of the treaty, protecting the integrity of the EU single market, since it would essentially allow NI to be a open back door into it. So if applied, this would inevitably require checks at the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, which would defeat the purpose of avoiding that, and be seen as undermining the open border and peace process. This in turn would jeopardise any trade deal between the US and the UK, as several members of congress have stated they would not pass a deal with the UK if this happened (https://www.itv.com/news/2020-09-16...if-uk-breaks-good-friday-agreement-for-brexit).
We can also add 'leading Presidential candidate' to those who've said a UK-US trade deal won't happen if the UK jeopardises the Good Friday Agreement:
 
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RobF

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Rob, is the situation in Kent a sign of real trouble or just a speed bump in getting the logistics worked out under the new border status as a result of Brexit?


Sign of real trouble. They've left it far too late to sort out the logistics. If the UK does go ahead and ends the transitional period (which is scheduled to be at the end of the year) without an agreement, or with an agreement that still involves diverging standards, then there will have to be customs checks where there are currently no checks (since the UK has regulatory alignment, etc., with the EU at present).

They're not at all set up to cope with that. They've promised technological and manpower solutions, but as this AP article from today describes, " The government’s Smart Freight system, designed to reduce the risk of cargo delays, will still be in a testing phase in January," and " Work to recruit and train 50,000 new customs workers is nowhere near being finished."

So this proposal is to shift the backlog to various lorry parks around the country (including one near me), and then have this "Kent Access Permit" system to prevent trucks just ignoring those and going straight to Kent. No idea how this would be supposed to work or where the checks on entering Kent would be though. My best guess is that they'd attempt to enforce it through fines rather than checks, but we'll see.

This could be just more futile posturing in an attempt to wring concessions out of the EU during the current negotiations. Personally, I'd think there's a good chance there'll be an extension to the transition period, since this is the same sort of pattern from last year, where they'd keep talking up a no-deal exit and put forward unrealistic plans to handle it, before agreeing to an extension at the last minute.

But I can't rule out the UK government having got to the point where it's lost the plot to the extent that it thinks leaving without a deal in place is a good idea, even though they're woefully unprepared for it.
 

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Sign of real trouble. They've left it far too late to sort out the logistics. If the UK does go ahead and ends the transitional period (which is scheduled to be at the end of the year) without an agreement, or with an agreement that still involves diverging standards, then there will have to be customs checks where there are currently no checks (since the UK has regulatory alignment, etc., with the EU at present).

They're not at all set up to cope with that. They've promised technological and manpower solutions, but as this AP article from today describes, " The government’s Smart Freight system, designed to reduce the risk of cargo delays, will still be in a testing phase in January," and " Work to recruit and train 50,000 new customs workers is nowhere near being finished."

So this proposal is to shift the backlog to various lorry parks around the country (including one near me), and then have this "Kent Access Permit" system to prevent trucks just ignoring those and going straight to Kent. No idea how this would be supposed to work or where the checks on entering Kent would be though. My best guess is that they'd attempt to enforce it through fines rather than checks, but we'll see.

This could be just more futile posturing in an attempt to wring concessions out of the EU during the current negotiations. Personally, I'd think there's a good chance there'll be an extension to the transition period, since this is the same sort of pattern from last year, where they'd keep talking up a no-deal exit and put forward unrealistic plans to handle it, before agreeing to an extension at the last minute.

But I can't rule out the UK government having got to the point where it's lost the plot to the extent that it thinks leaving without a deal in place is a good idea, even though they're woefully unprepared for it.
What a headache! Thanks for the explanation.

What is the status of the hard border in Ireland?
 

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Okay, this is probably a dumb question and has probably been answered earlier - but why do the Brexit folks fight the "backdoor" so much?
Is it not a case of having your cake and eating it too? As in, you get all the benefits of open borders with EU without having to abide by the EU community rules?
I guess i am in-part asking if the N. Ireland "backdoor" necessitates the UK abiding by EU movement and trade regulations?
 
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RobF

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What a headache! Thanks for the explanation.

What is the status of the hard border in Ireland?
Okay, this is probably a dumb question and has probably been answered earlier - but why do the Brexit folks fight the "backdoor" so much?
Is it not a case of having your cake and eating it too? As in, you get all the benefits of open borders with EU without having to abide by the EU community rules?
I guess i am in-part asking if the N. Ireland "backdoor" necessitates the UK abiding by EU movement and trade regulations?
It's complicated. As well as the current political aspects, there's a lot of history involved.

I've been meaning to write a bit up on this, so I'll give a little bit of background now (and I imagine you both know a fair bit of this already, but it's not really covered in UK education and a lot of people here know next to nothing about it, to the extent that the potential impact on the border in Ireland was barely mentioned around the original referendum, except by a few; I think I mentioned it myself over on that other forum).

So in 1169 (bear with me, I'm going somewhere with this) the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland began, marking the start of over 800 years of English involvement in Ireland. While partially conquered, over the next few centuries Ireland was gradually taken back, apart from the Pale (the area around Dublin).

This brings us to the 16th century, when the Tudors decided to reconquer it. Henry VIII was declared King of Ireland in 1542, and things get messy. Ireland was Catholic, accepting Papal authority, Henry VIII had broken the Church of England away from Rome establishing Anglicanism, and they were attempting to extend this, along with English law, language, and culture onto Gaelic Ireland. The Spanish Empire got involved. But after sixty or so years of this, the Spanish and Irish Rebels were defeated at the Battle of Kinsale, ending the Gaelic order.

Then there was the British Civil wars, from 1639 to 1651. In Ireland, Roman Catholics were having new taxes imposed on them, while being denied full rights. Additionally, the Plantations of Ireland (confiscating land and transferring it to English, Protestant, loyal, colonists) had been happening for a few decades, with, significantly, the Plantation of Ulster in the north of the country being the largest. All this led to the Irish Rebellion of 1641.

That did not go well, and began the Irish Confederate Wars, between Gaelic Irish and old English Catholics on one side, and English and Scottish Protestant colonists on the other side.

This led to the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland, with Cromwell and his New Model Army invading in 1649, which was brutal. Atrocities, a vast death toll, burning of crops, famine, plague, executions, land confiscation, tens of thousands of Irish people sold as indentured labourers. It's been described as ethnic cleansing, since it aimed to remove Irish Catholics from much of the country.

I'm skipping a lot here (not least the Williamite War), but the key point is this firmly established a land-owning Protestant minority who held political power, and a dispossessed Catholic majority. Ireland would be dominated by this Protestant Ascendancy into the 19th century.

Oppression tends to lead to revolution, and sure enough, the Irish Rebellion of 1798, influenced by the American and French revolutions, took place, and was brutally suppressed by the forces of the British Crown. For multiple reasons - including the fear than an Ireland with its own parliament that adopted Catholic Emancipation could form a Catholic parliament and ally with the French - the Acts of Union followed, abolishing the Irish Parliament and creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

Catholic Emancipation was realised in 1829, finally allowing Roman Catholic members of the union's Parliament. Irish attempts, led by the Repeal Association, continued through parliament to campaign for a return home rule. The Great Famine came in 1845, causing about one million deaths and forcing the emigration of a million more, mostly to America; political factors, including absentee English landlords owning most of the farmland, contributed to this. The Irish Parliamentary Party formed in 1874 seeking legislative independence for Ireland and land reform, and following the 1885 general election, their 86 seats were enough to hold the balance of power between the Liberals and Conservatives. William Gladstone, a Liberal, backed Home Rule for Ireland, allowing him to form his third government with the IPP; he introduced a Home Rule bill accordingly. Which was defeated, and split the Liberal party, with a breakaway group forming the Liberal Unionist Party (who would go on to merge with the Conservatives, forming the Conservative and Unionist Party, which is still the Conservative party's full name to this day).

So at this point there are two distinct conflicting groups; Irish nationalists, seeking home rule, and Irish unionists, supporting the Union with Great Britain, who feared an Irish national government imposing tariffs on industry (chiefly located in Ulster), and discrimination against Protestants. Gladstone noted that a separate solution might be needed for Ulster.

I'm skipping over even more now (the Home Rule Act 1914, WW1, the Easter Rising, the Irish War of Independence...), but to get to the point, that's what happened; the Government of Ireland Act 1920. The idea was to create two Home Rule areas in Ireland; Northern Ireland, and Southern Ireland, with both granted home rule but remaining in the United Kingdom.

Well, that didn't work. In the 1921 elections for Southern Ireland, Sinn Féin, the Irish Republican party, won 124 of 128 seats running unopposed, ignored the Parliament, and assembled as the Second Dáil. This led to the Anglo-Irish Treaty, resulting in the formation of the Irish Free State (which later become the state of Ireland and left the British Commonwealth to become a republic in 1949). Northern Ireland had an opt-out from the treaty though, and exercised it, completing the partition of Ireland.

Cue the Irish Civil War and the violence that plagued much of the rest of the 20th century, in particular the Troubles that began in the 1960s and ran for the next few decades, ending - mostly - with the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

So that's the background. To grossly oversimplify, the Good Friday Agreement (together with the formation of the European Single Market) put in place processes that removed the security barriers and checkpoints that marked the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, resulting in a border that's essentially not there, so Irish nationalists, seeking reunification of Ireland, have something closer to that and a potential path to reunification, while Irish Unionists have an agreement that the status of Northern Ireland can't change without the consent of a majority of its population. And while the UK and Ireland were both members of the EU, that's no problem. But with the UK leaving, that border becomes a border between the UK and the EU. Problem.

Both the EU and the UK agreed that a hard border in Ireland should be avoided. The UK argued they'd be able to achieve this through non-existent technology. The EU unsurprisingly didn't go for this, which initially led to the agreement for a backstop, that would keep Northern Ireland and the UK as a whole in a common customs territory with the EU, until an alternative solution was actually delivered.

But this was repeatedly rejected by the UK Parliament, with Brexiters rebelling against it for a variety of reasons (partly wanting to diverge from the EU and seeing this as a means of keeping the UK in the EU by stealth - apparently suddenly doubting their ability to come up with alternate arrangements - and partly it not being compatible with their vague notions of 'sovereignty').

Johnson then came up with the new proposal, which effectively puts a border down the Irish Sea; Northern Ireland has no tariffs or restrictions on goods crossing the Irish border, but this necessitates tariffs being applied between the UK and NI for goods heading, or at risk of heading, into the EU from the UK via NI. As I recapped above, Johnson was firmly against this, until it was fine when he was trying to pass his deal last year, until it was suddenly not fine again and required unilateral legislation in the UK to fix it, which breaks international law.

The Internal Market Bill is now at the report stage of the House of Commons. It then has to pass its third reading there, before going to the House of Lords.

So at the moment, there is no hard border. And the withdrawal agreement that Johnson's Parliament and the EU agreed should, in principle, ensure there isn't one. But Johnson's Internal Market Bill jeopardises that. If applied, it would remove the checks between the UK and NI necessary to enable there to be no checks between Ireland and Northern Ireland. That means a border. And, with regard to the history I've recapped above, that means problems.

And to answer @JimEverett's specific question, the agreement does not require the UK to follow the EU's rules on movement, etc. (and with regard to Ireland, the UK and Ireland are part of a separate Common Travel Area). The UK would essentially get to do its own thing, and to some extent, Northern Ireland would get the best of both. But it is frequently portrayed by Unionists as an attempt to 'tie Northern Ireland to Brussels', and break up the United Kingdom, and to them, and apparently now Johnson, any kind of checks in the Irish Sea are unacceptable accordingly.

I'm not sure why this is even seen as a problem in this day and age, and the rationale they have - protecting the integrity of the union - seems dubious at best. I would think the return of a border would, if anything, increase support in Northern Ireland for reunification, a return to the EU and the removal of a border, and the inevitable collapse in negotiations with the EU that would follow that would also surely spur on Scotland's efforts for independence. But that, on the face of it, is why they fight the Brexit backstop so much; they're Unionists, obsessed with the 'sovereignty' of the Union, part of a conflict stretching back centuries.
 
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kind of an old topic, but the only one I could find here. Looks like some kind of deal has been reached. I didn't read more than just past the headlines
 

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Maybe RobF can break it down for us whenever.
 
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Maybe RobF can break it down for us whenever.
I'll leave it a few days (because Christmas - Merry Christmas! - but also because there'll be a lot of details still to emerge).

But first impression is that the Brexit supporters have failed to get pretty much everything they were demanding, and are calling that victory. Which will probably go the way the transition agreement did; that also involved them agreeing to a number of things they said they'd never agree to, yet still calling that victory at the time, until this year when they started calling it a terrible deal and tried to pass legislation to break it, and international law at the same time. That's not what I'd call a victory.

What will inevitably follow is an attempt to frame it as everything being 'resolved' now, no matter how much it isn't. What happens next will depend on how successful that is, which will in turn depend on just how much lurks in all those details, and to what extent it's things that can be ignored or lived with, or not.

Since there's already reports of some particular details looking crippling to particular industries (Scotland's seed potato industry for example), we can expect Scotland's independence movement to go into overdrive, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the narrow majority that already thought Brexit was a bad idea become larger as just how poorly the deal reached compares to the previous arrangement becomes apparent.
 

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